Despite insecurity in many parts of Nigeria, some commercial and private drivers dare the night, taking their chances with bandits, kidnappers and armed robbers to travel on Nigeria’s lonely, dark and dangerous highways. Some of the travellers who shared their experiences with Daily Trust Saturday said they were forced to do so out of necessity despite the challenges involved.
Sharing his experiences in Ilorin, Mr Badrudeen Baraye, who plies the Lagos, Seme and Idiroko routes, said their departure time usually began from 8pm, depending on the volume of passengers. He said night travel was comfortable.
“The advantages of night journey are enormous for traders who want to return from Lagos same day and workers who want to resume their various offices early, coming from Ilorin,” he said.
His preference to night trips was echoed by Ibrahim Sheu, a driver with FM Express, a renowned motor park in Ilorin.
“I prefer night trips; and in the last five years, I have never had any reason to regret it. Whenever we embark on our journeys separately, we always wait for one another to reconvene at Oyo and move together to ascertain our safety because a lone bus will be an easy target for robbers.
“There is no difference in the prices charged at night to Lagos. Toyota Hiace buses charge N3,500, but here, we carry only seven passengers in our Toyota Sienna at N5,000. When you are travelling at night, the road blocks are less,” Sheu said.
In Kaduna State, Muhammadu Kajuru, a Gulf driver who plies the southern Kaduna roads said travelling at night was a risk he must take despite the insecurity on the highways. Having been into commercial transport for more than a decade, Kajuru, who said night trips were now on the decline and drivers mostly relied on prayers, added, “What we do is pray against any evil before embarking on our journey. The truth is that no place is safe. The situation is worrisome and we cannot stop night trips because it is how we earn a living.”
Bello Yabo, who drives a pickup vehicle at Panteka motor park in Kaduna said his journeys at night depended on his clients’ requests and destination. He explained that despite the risks, he enjoyed night driving as they do that to sometimes avoid extortion from security and traffic marshals who accuse them of overload.
“We always load our goods at night with the hope that before the day breaks we would reach our destination. We are not so much concerned about the risks, especially when we pass dangerous spots,” he said.
Speaking on why they find night trips convenient, the chairman of the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers at the Bauchi motor park in Jos, Baban Dorowa Muhammad said, “Our movement at night has become necessary, not a choice. It is not a journey that starts and ends within the day, and sometimes you don’t get passengers early.”
The driver, who plies the Jos-Lafiya Calabar road, said travelling at night had become a difficult task because of insecurity. “It is a form of livelihood that one has to make sacrifices and give up your comfort to enable us meet family demands,” he said.
Targher Ushahemba in Benue State said that as much as he loved night trips, he had reduced the frequency due to insecurity. He said the necessity of catching up with important events or personally driving other people for private purposes had forced him into continuing night trips.
The signs, road traps at night
Night travellers who spoke with Daily Trust Saturday said they always looked out for dangerous warning signs while on the road, adding that they have marked the dangerous spots which they try to avoid.
Adamu Gamji said that between Akwanga and Rafin Ciyawa in Nassarawa State had been tagged a dangerous spot by night drivers due to the activities of armed robbers and kidnappers who often block the road at night.
“Between Akeragu in Nassarawa State and Makurdi in Benue State is another dangerous area. They attack motorists and operate at 8pm and not even midnight,” he said.
Aminu Ibrahim, another night driver in Kaduna said he travelled at night despite the risks. He said, “Your concentration is at its peak and you are observing movements so that you are not caught unawares. If you notice that the road is empty you will slow down, and since we have contacts in some of the villages on the highway, we immediately call to ask if the road is safe.”
Speaking on the security situation of Nigerian roads, the secretary of the Ilorin Emirate Travels, Malam Sheriff Alabi said, “Sometimes we move between 2am and 3am, and when a driver sees that the road is too lonely, he calls the office and we alert other road users to be wary when they get to such spots.”
He said that sometimes, herds of cattle are deliberately pushed to the highway to slow down the movement of vehicles, especially when robbers mount roadblocks, adding, “Our drivers have been shot at and stoned, amidst several other attacks.”
On his part, Baban Dorowa Muhammad said, “Sometimes we are caught up by either kidnappers or armed robbers; other times, the driver is traumatised by communal clashes in some communities, but that will not deter us.”
Recounting a recent encounter with kidnappers along the Jos-Lafia road, Muhammad said, “Last month, I was on my way to Lafia, and suddenly, around Nunku, about 10pm, we were stopped by kidnappers. They selected some passengers and took into the bush. I was among those selected, but they later asked me to go due to my old age. I was lucky,” he said.
Targher Ushahemba also narrated his experience on his way from Makurdi, Benue State to Abuja recently, saying, “I was lucky to have been alerted by some drivers ahead of me, so we waited until the road was clear.”
A driver in Benue Links, Atsu Moses said, “We have had very bad experiences. The challenges we face at night are mostly armed robbery and kidnapping. We are also faced with the problem of how to identify real security operatives from fake ones. Sometimes we get to some checkpoints we consider manned by real security personnel but it would turn out to be either kidnappers or armed robbers dressed in police or military uniforms.”
James Addingi, a Benue Links driver who plies the Makurdi-Lagos route said, “Initially, we arrived Benue on time, but due to insecurity, we sometimes sleep in Otukpo or Aliade while coming back from Lagos. This is because there are no checkpoints at night. Some of our drivers have been victims. Some of them share their experiences with us so that we can apply caution.”
On his part, David Ibrahim, who often plies the Benue-Lagos route, urged government to set up road surveillance structures, saying, “There used to be a popular checkpoint between Otukpo and Taraku manned by soldiers, but it has been dismantled. That checkpoint used to boost drivers’ confidence. But since it has been dismantled, once we arrive Otukpo by 8pm we will park our vehicles and sleep over because we are afraid to reach that spot without security presence.”
Baban Dorowa, however, said security personnel mounting roadblocks were sometimes part of the problem as some of them concentrate on extorting drivers instead of doing their job.
Hope Abah Emmanuel (Makurdi), Mohammed I. Yaba (Kaduna), Ado Abubakar Musa (Jos) & Mumini AbdulKareem (Ilorin)